Yesterday, I strongly advised Professor Wole Soyinka to insulate himself from partisan politics apparently because of the fact that most of the Nigerian politicians today are primarily in politics because of primitive accumulation and self aggradisement and consequently they have collectively constituted themselves into veritable enemies of the Nigerian masses. I was compelled to address him because of his phenomenal contributions to the trajectory of the Nigerian national life.
As a secondary school student in form five in 1975, I can still remember vividly how our school principal, Mr. S.O. Agbebi explained two of his poems with an incontrovertible clarity- Death at Dawn and Abiku. Subsequently, I bought his book, The Man Died: The Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka, while working in the Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture in 1977. As a school certificate boy, I could barely understand the main theme of the book. Years later, I re-read it and up till now I still have a copy of the book. There is no doubting the fact that he has paid his due in the literary world.
The relevance of Soyinka to this piece is a statement he made in the The Man Died. This is it: ‘The man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny’. My highest respect for him is that he lived up to this injunction during the despotic regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha immediately after the infamous annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections by Badamosi Bambanga. He did not allow the man in him to die. He rose up to the challenge and campaigned vigorously against military rule and despotism in Nigeria. He escaped from the country through a bush path when it was clear that he had been marked for elimination by the Ababa government. Later, members of the Pirates Confraternity, the Seadogs helped his wife and children to escape also in the dead of the night via a bush track. That was Wole Soyinka, the world acclaimed human rights activist.
However, and sadly too, the man in Soyinka now is almost dead completely because of his intimacy with Bola Tinubu and other APC elements in the south west. At 85 years of age, Soyinka must retrace his steps, dump these politicians and restore himself to the path of justice and human rights enforcement for which he has cut a niche for himself.
This is where Olusegun Obasanjo missed it all and for which he paid dearly. When the Babangida junta robbed MKO Abiola of his presidency, he compromised so badly and thereby depriving himself of the unique Yoruba leadership that would have perhaps been comparable to that of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo. Due to selfish considerations he told the world that Abiola was not the Messiah Nigeria needed. A very costly statement indeed ! The interim national government he prescribed produced the Ababa junta that nearly finished him.
In almost the four years of the Buhari government, many human rights issues have emerged that are rather distressing for which Soyinka’s thunderous voice would have made a world of difference – the rampaging killer herdsmen, the human rights abuses by the police and the military, the bribery allegations against the Governor of Kano State, David Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke that should be in jail but are now walking free, the missing 84 million dollars and other huge sums of money from the NNPC etc. It is very important to draw national and academic attention to these so as to prevent Nigeria from relapsing into the power sadism and autocracy of the military years.
In particular, in the current disturbing political conjuncture in Nigeria, it is crucial to stress that the role of scholars cannot be over-emphasised. But the sad reality today in Nigeria is that scholarship has largely gone ethnic and religious. There are senior academics today that cannot stand a critique of Buhari or Tinubu(no matter how objective and empirical) because of their religion and ethnicity. Definitely, these type of characters are in academics by accident. The danger they ported is stupendous. Due to their insularity and pronvinciality, they lose their voices and the rotten politicians think they are on the right side of history which could culminate in a regrettable human rights violations and atomisation of Nigeria.
In the analysis of the human enforcement under the Buhari government, it is important to state what the position of Nigerian constitution, the groundnorm, on human rights enforcement:
“Thus, under the current human rights law regime, no citizen shall be detained in any custody beyond 48 hours without a remand order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
The International Centre for Investigative Reporting has reviewed the three year human rights enforcement under the Buhari government thus:
The International Centre for Investigative Reporting on 29 May, 2018 reviewed the state of human rights under Muhammadu Buhari thus:
“ON May 29, 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, like his predecessors, solemnly swore the oath of the office of president. Repeating after Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed, Buhari assured Nigerians that as President he would discharge his duties in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, that he would strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution, and that he would do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear of favour, affection or ill-will.
“Three months to this moment, Buhari also described himself as ‘a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms’ during his famed Chatham House address. Three years on, however, it can hardly be said that Nigeria’s President has kept religiously to this oath ― or his claim to conversion. A number of events that have taken place under the president’s watch in his first three years show that his government has violated fundamental human rights, entrenched in the country’s constitution, and condoned such violations.
“Despite assurances from Buhari before and after his election to be deeply committed to human rights and freedom, human rights abuses have remained one of the evident failings of this administration. Such abuses have in fact led to the intervention of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court, among other international bodies.
“THE ZARIA MASSACRE
Between December 12 and 14, 2015, the Nigerian army reportedly killed up to 348 Shiites, including unarmed protesters and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). According to a representative of the Kaduna state government, 347 bodies were handed over by the army for a secret mass burial in Zaria. The commission of inquiry set up by the government confirmed this in August, 2016.
“Also, Amnesty International in April, 2016, released evidence that the army used excessive force against civilians, killed more than 350 persons in the process, and went to great length in covering up the atrocity. The army had claimed it killed only seven Shiites in self-defence after they blocked a public road and attempted to assassinate army chief Tukur Buratai ― an allegation strongly denied by the IMN.
“During the 2015 siege on the sect’s enclave, prominent leaders of the movement and Zakzaky’s son, Aliy, was extra-judicially killed. In a similar attack in July, 2014, three of Zakzaky’s sons were also killed.
” However, rather than take clear action, Buhari suggested during an interview in December 2015 that the victims brought the tragedy upon themselves by “hitting the chest of generals”. Nearly a year after, in August 2016, he said his government would issue an appropriate response after studying the report of the judicial inquiry. That response has still not been given, nor have the issues been addressed.
“EL-ZAKZAKY’S CONTINUED DETENTION
During the military operation of December 2015, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was arrested by the Nigerian army, and endlessly kept in detention without a court charge. A year after his arrest, an Abuja division of the Federal High Court ordered the government to release him and his detained wife, Zeeenat, to the police within 45 days, who shall then take them to a safe place within 24 hours. It also ordered the SSS to pay a fine of N50 million to the applicant and his wife.
“Buhari government has disregard the court order, despite protests by members of the IMN. After El-Zakzaky was rumoured to have died in custody, he was allowed to speak to a select group of journalists at the DSS Abuja office in January to debunk the rumours ― his first appearance in two years. And then, in April, the Shiite leader was charged by the government with murder. It is unclear for whose murder he was charged.
Despite assurances of the president in speeches, especially delivered abroad, of his commitment to stick to law and order in fighting corruption and terrorism, the government has continued to do the opposite. This fact is particularly pronounced in the case of Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser, alleged to have diverted $2.1 billion arms fund. He has been granted bail by different courts on at least five occasions; yet he remains in custody.
“In 2015, he was granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja, only to be immediately rearrested at the gates of Kuje prison. In October 2016, the ECOWAS Court also ordered the federal government to pay a compensation of N15 million to Dasuki for his “unlawful arrest”. Again, in January 2017, an Abuja High Court reaffirmed the validity of bail granted to the former NSA and five others. In May, after pleading not guilty to all the charges, he was granted yet another bail by Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of an Abuja High Court.
“HARASSMENT OF JOURNALISTS
Another case of Buhari administration’s human rights violation is how members of the fourth estate have been treated since it started. For 2017 alone, the ICIR reported the harassment and arrests of ten journalists and bloggers.
“Prominent among these cases were those of Austin Okai, a blogger arrested for circulating reports of Yahaya Bello’s alleged inflation of contracts to acquire vehicles, and three journalists from Channels TV, Silverbird TV and AIT, who were attacked and arrested by officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Recently, Aminu Nurudeen, a reporter at Voice of Liberty was also reported to have gone into hiding after Kano State Police Command invited him over IGP Ibrahim Idris’s viral video.
“In January 2017, the Nigeria police raided PREMIUM TIMES head office in Abuja, and arrested the newspaper’s publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi and the paper’s judiciary correspondent, Evelyn Okakwu over a story involving the Army and its operations.
” Yet, another pointer to the administration’s poor human rights records is the Global Impunity Index, which draws attention to countries where the killers of journalists walk free. According to the
” 2015 ranking, Nigeria was ranked the 13th worst country in the world. But in the 2017 ranking, the country has moved two points higher.
” INDICTMENT BY THE UNITED STATES
In its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017, released a few days to Buhari’s visit to the White House, the United States accused Buhari’s administration of not taking sufficient action on various allegations of rights violation, especially by military personnel.
“The report stated: “Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government did not adequately investigate or prosecute most of the major outstanding allegations of human rights violations by the security forces or the majority of cases of police or military extortion or other abuse of power.
“Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths generally did not make their findings public. In August, the acting president convened a civilian-led presidential investigative panel to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement. As of November, the panel had not issued a report.”
“The report also mentioned and condemned certain instances of human rights abuses, such as extrajudicial killings of supporters of the IPOB movement in 2016, killing and mass burial of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in 2015, and arbitrary abduction of persons perceived to be anti-establishment.
“INDICTMENT BY AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Amnesty International (AI), a global movement that campaigns against human rights abuses, has also been critical of Buhari administration. In its 2017/2018 Human Rights report released in February, the organisation condemned the Nigerian military for totally disregarding human rights in its fight against terrorism. The army, it said, carried out “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill-treatment, which, in some cases, led to deaths in custody”.
“In another report released on Friday, Amnesty International revealed that thousands of female internally displaced persons are being subjected to sexual abuse by military personnel. The organisation’s investigations revealed that women, young girls and children were “raped and starved to death” by soldiers in various ICP camps, and many were sexually exploited usually in exchange for food supplies.
“For a president who had sworn to preserve the Nigerian constitution and the rule of law, Buhari’s human rights record in the last three years comes below expectation, not only of his ardent critics, but of many Nigerians who have invested high hope in his presidency.”
The perspectives of the Nigerian Senate, another crucial arm of government, on human rights enforcement under the Buhari government has been reported by Premium Times of 11 July, 2018:
“The Senate has summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, over alleged violations of human rights and consistent assault on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution by the Executive.
“The Senate asked Mr Malami to appear before it in plenary and explain the constitutional basis for the controversial Executive Order No. 006 and the other Executive Orders which have been issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“They said the orders were issued in clear usurpation of the lawmaking functions of the National Assembly.
“It also urged the federal government to urgently empanel a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate all cases of human rights abuse allegedly committed by the Police, the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in the course of discharging their duties with a view to identifying the culprits and victims and offering redress where necessary.
“These resolutions were sequel to a motion sponsored by David Umaru (PDP, Niger East)
” Mr Umaru said Nigeria’s democratic credentials have become questionable as a result of the alarming cases of alleged state-inspired human rights violations and consistent constitutional infractions perpetrated by agencies of government.
” He said allegations abound that the executive has not only consistently violated the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens particularly the rights to dignity of human person and right to personal liberty but also infringed on the Constitution in several ways.
“The lawmaker made reference to the continuous detention of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who has been detained “for over two years in total disregard of over four court orders, including that of the ECOWAS Court which granted him bail pending his trial over money laundering charges” and the continuous incarceration of the leader of the lslamic Movement in Nigeria ( IMN), also known as Shiite, lbrahim El-Zakzaki “for over two years contrary to an order of the Federal High Court which ordered his release in 2016.”
“He also made reference to the recent arrest of a senator, Enyinnaya Abaribe, “who was whisked away by a detachment of DSS personnel while attending a function at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and later kept incommunicado at DSS detention facility for five days.
“There is lack of accountability for human rights violations by security agencies and other militant elements including armed herdsmen; heavy-handed violent responses to peaceful protests as exemplified by previous crackdown an agitators for the Independent State of Biafra (IPOB) and the recent violent clashes between the police and suspected members of the IMN who were protesting the release of their leader, lbrahim EL-Zakzaky in Abuja and Kaduna respectively,” he said.
” He further raised alarm over the recent enactment of the controversial Executive Order No. 006 as an Executive legislation which permits security agencies to freeze the asset of persons standing trial without recourse to court order.
“Several other Executive Orders have also effectively usurped legislative and judicial powers of the National Assembly and the judiciary as enshrined respectively under sections 4 and 6 of the Constitution,” he added.
“Several lawmakers stood up to support the motion included Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), who condemned the violations of Nigerians’ rights by the federal government on several occasions.
“We may be comfortable today because we occupy this office but when we are out of this place, we are likely to fall victims,” he explained.
“He also said the Executive Order should “comply and concur with the law.”
“Yahaya Abdullahi was, however, stood up to “disassociate” himself from the motion. He said he was not in support of the motion because the matter has not gotten to a point to worry.
“Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia) who was not happy with the comment of Mr Abdullahi stressed that he has been a victim of human rights violation.
“I feel pained for a colleague to say it has not reached a level of worry when a senator can be arrested on the streets and detained for days. People have asked me not to talk too much so they won’t come after me… again.
“This is where this motion lies – human rights; I have my rights to speak and so do you. We are in a state where violence and chaos rules,” he said.
“While making reference to the alleged maltreatment of Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose in the state’s Government House, Mr Abaribe said he did not want Nigeria to “descend into a pit of tyranny and we will say we are alright because we are elites.”
“If this hallowed chamber cannot speak up here, then we might as well pack up. We are in trouble under this particular regime and it is our right under the constitution to fight for our human rights,” he added.
“Other resolutions made by the Senate are “call on the Federal Government to demonstrate practical commitment to the observance of the rule of law especially in ensuring obedience to court orders and following due process in fulfillment of its constitutional obligation” and;
“Call on the Federal Government to take necessary measures and/or establish necessary structures to ensure that all constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens are protected and observed by its security and law enforcement agencies in the discharge of their responsibilities.”
” It also urged the federal government to desist from further violation of the sacred principle of separation of powers and adopt the rule of law as the guiding principle of government actions.
One of the most brazen and audacious assaults on the Nigerian Judiciary till date was the midnight Invasion of the residences of some high and supreme courts justices by the operatives of Department of State Services in October, 2016. It is also instructive to note that in 2018 that Mr. Daura also used these his thugs to also invade the National Assembly. This is how Garba Shehu, the spokesman of the Buhari government responded to this assault:
“The Presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants were obtained before the searches,” he said. Below is his full text:
“The Presidency assures that the President reserves his highest respect for the institution of the judiciary as the third arm of government.
“To this end, the President will not do anything to undermine its independence.
“President Buhari remains a committed democrat, in words and in his actions, and will not take any action in violation of the constitution.
“The recent surgical operation against some judicial officers is specifically targeted at corruption and not at the judiciary as an institution.
“In a robust democracy such as ours, there is bound to be a plurality of opinions on any given issue, but there is a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that needs to be corrected.
“But reports by a section of the media are giving us cause for concern.
” In undertaking the task of reporting, the media should be careful about the fault lines they open. It is wrong to present this incident as a confrontation between the executive and judicial arms of government.
“The Presidency has received assurances from the DSS that all due processes of the law, including the possession of search and arrest warrants were obtained before the searches.
“To suggest that the government is acting outside the law in a dictatorial manner is to breach the interest of the state.9 October, 2016
Dr. Nwankwo, however, completely disagreed with Garba Shehu thus:
“The justification of this brazen act of executive recklessness on grounds of “fight against corruption” is not only lame and pedantic; but also indicative of the bourgeoning atmosphere of democratic dictatorship that the Buhari administration has birthed in Nigeria. I have listened to and read many mischievous reports suggesting that it is “corruption” and not the judiciary that is on trial.
“Nothing can be more insidious and ridiculous than this.
” No matter how anybody or group tries to rationalize this executive aberration, it does not retract from the truth that the sanctuary of justice has been desecrated by the Buhari administration.
“Is it now that Muhammadu Buhari realized that the judiciary is corrupt? During his first sojourn as a military dictator, Buhari set up special military tribunals; hand-picked judges and instructed them on what to do. If this kind of arm-twisting and executive directive to pervert the course of justice is not corruption, then we need a redefinition of corruption.
“Whatever is happening in the judiciary today took roots during the various military dictatorships we had in this country, Buhari’s military dictatorship being one of them. It was due to institutionalized corruption in the system that the judiciary under Buhari’s military regime showed no respect for judicial sanctity by ordering the continued detention of the likes of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Pa Michael Ajasin and Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, even when the various Special Military Tribunals set up by Buhari then did not find them guilty as charged.
“That in 2016, Muhammadu Buhari could reinvent the fascist mechanism of 1983 with all its contradictions bespeaks of leadership ineptitude for which Nigeria is famous. For crying out loud, this is supposed to be a democracy with all the trappings of separation of power. Regrettably, the current Buhari administration has demonstrated a galling ignorance of the principle of separation of power.
“The meat of this principle is that different body of persons should administer each of the three arms of government. The guarantee of liberty in any given society is anchored on the entrenchment and respect of separation of power. This principle implies that the three arms of government should be superintended by different bodies of persons; and each arm must be limited to its own sphere of action; and within that sphere of action should be independent and supreme.
“Despite its many loopholes, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes separation of power as a fundamental article of faith, which spells out the roles, duties and jurisdiction of the three arms of government. There is not a provision in the Nigerian constitution that subordinates one arm of government to another. Even when it is given that each of the three arms of government must work in a coordinated form to ensure the smooth operation of government, the constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary and not as an appendage of the executive arm of the government.
“That the Buhari administration should, in utter violation of this constitutionally enshrined provision, unleash its secret police to arrest senior members of the Nigerian Bench on naive excuses of “fight against corruption” is a comedy of tragedy signposting the death of a nation.
“The regulatory organ for the discipline and sanctioning of judges and lawyers is the National Judicial Council (NJC). The principle of due process is that if there are conclusive evidence of corruption against any judicial officer, such evidence must be availed the NJC for action. Buhari has abandoned all known rules and respect for due process simply to give the impression that he is working when in fact the roof is leaking.
“This unilateral arrest of judges cannot atone for Buhari’s litany of failures or the crushing hardship to which his administration has subjected Nigerians.
“A few months ago, I had alerted Nigerians on the dubiety and hollowness of Buhari’s war on corruption. I am convinced that Buhari is not fighting corruption. Rather he is using the cover of war against corruption to picket his real and perceived opponents in a bid to cower them into submission.
“I have, in my several writings recently, shown that Buhari’s corruption war is a hoax; or at best a vindictive process of silencing the opposition. For instance, if you take a critical look at all those that have been reined in by the EFCC on charges of corruption, you will notice a disturbing trend. No member of the APC has been quizzed by the anti-graft agency, despite the avalanche of hard and factual evidence linking many known members of the APC; even ministers serving under Buhari, to corruption.
“This same selective pattern can be gleaned from the judges so far arrested and released by the DSS and EFCC. Curiously, almost all the arrested justices are those who have given one judgment or the other against the interest of the Buhari government.
” For instance, Justice John Okoro of the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of three Anambra serving senators when he said that the “dispute on whether the Certificates of Return should be withdrawn from the serving lawmakers and given to the list of candidates of another PDP faction in Anambra State (a faction that is predisposed to defecting to the APC), was not an issue before the court and that the lower court never made any pronouncement to that effect.
“Justice Ngwuta, also of the Supreme Court is being targeted for his lead judgment in the disputed governorship election in Ekiti State that upheld the election of Ayodele Peter Fasoye. Justice Ademola Adeniyi’s sin is his ruling in the case of defected PDP lawmakers to APC, where he gave an order of perpetual injection restraining the lawmakers who defected to APC from effecting any leadership change in the Federal House of Representatives. He was also involved at some points in the Anambra Senatorial election case but most fundamentally is his crime of granting bail to Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB.
“Truth is that I am scarcely surprised by what Buhari is doing today. From 1983 till date, Buhari has always demonstrated a nauseating penchant for fascism and tyranny in any leadership position he finds himself; but I must add quickly that these are indeed very dark days, not just for our judiciary but also for our democracy.
“Today, Nigeria has effectively become a lawless country. A society where the government wakes up in the morning and orders the arrests of judges is a lawless society. A society which professes secularism, but allows and encourages Islamic fundamentalists to recklessly murder Christians in cold blood is a lawless country.
“A country where the presidency unilaterally concocts police reports to rope in the leadership of the National Assembly on trumped-up charges is a lawless country. A country that has no respect for the rule of law is a lawless country. A country where the system encourages selective justice; where even renowned treasury looters define the boundaries of justice is a lawless country.
“I agree that the judiciary, like every other sector in Nigeria, is a victim of corruption.There are specified procedures to deal with this type of issue; but to simply wake-up and order the arrest of serving judges is the height of official recklessness and corruption. Muhammadu Buhari must understand that the judiciary is not a parastatal of the federal government.
“It is an independent arm of government. The federal government must, as a matter of urgency, refrain from this assault on the judiciary and save Nigeria the agony of the looming doom. One word, they say is enough for the wise. Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo October 14, 2016 Vanguard
ON 12 January, 2019, the Nigerian nation woke up to the news that the CJN was being prosecuted by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The allegations are as stated below:
PETITION ON SUSPECTED FINANCIAL CRIMES AND BREACHES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT BUREAU REQUIREMENTS AGAINST HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE W. S. NKANU ONNOGHEN, GCON, THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA
We write to bring to your attention serious concerns bothering on flagrant violations of the law and the Constitution of Nigeria by the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Specifically, we are distressed that facts on the ground indicate the leader of our country’s judicial branch is embroiled in suspected financial crimes and breaches of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
The particulars of our findings indicate that:
His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen is the owner of sundry accounts primarily funded through cash deposits made by himself, up to as recently as 10th August 2016 which appear to have been run in a manner inconsistent with financial transparency and the code of conduct for public officials.
To give specific examples, here are some instances of cash deposits by Justice Onnoghen:
Justice Onnoghen made five different cash deposits of $10,000 each on 8th March 2011 into Standard Chartered Bank Account 1062650;
On 7th June 2011, two separate cash deposits of $5000 each were made by Justice Walter Onnoghen, followed by four cash deposits of $10,000 each;
On 27th June 2011, Justice Onnoghen made another set of five separate cash deposits of $10,000 each and made four more cash deposits of $10,000 each on the following day, 28th June 2011;
Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen did not declare his assets immediately after taking office, contrary to Section 15 (1) of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act;
Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen did not comply with the constitutional requirement for public servants to declare their assets every four years during their career;
The Code of Conduct Bureau Forms (Form CCB 1) of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen for 2014 and 2016 were dated and filed on the same day. The acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000014 was issued on 14th December 2016. The acknowledgement slip for Declarant SCN: 000015 was also issued on 14th December 2016, at which point Justice Onnoghen had become the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The affidavit for SCN: 000014 was sworn to on 14th December 2016;
The affidavit for SCN: 000015 was sworn to on 14th December 2016;
Both forms were received on 14th December 2016 by one Awwal Usman Yakasai.
The discrepancy between Justice Walter Onnoghen’s two CCB forms thatwere filed on the same day is significant.
In filling the section on Details of Assets, particularly Cash, in Nigerian Banks, His Lordship as Declarant SCN: 000014 mentioned only two bank accounts:
Union Bank account number 0021464934 in Abuja, with balance of N9,536,407, as at 14th November 2014.
Union Bank account number 0012783291 in Calabar, with balance of N11, 456,311 as at 14th November 2014.
The sources of the funds in these accounts are stated as salaries, estacodes and allowances.
As Declarant SCN: 000015 His Lordship however lists seven bank accounts:
Standard Chartered account 00001062667, with balance of N3,221,807.05 as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered account 00001062650, with balance of $164,804.82, as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered account 5001062686, with balance of EUROS 55,154.56, as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered Bank account 5001062679 with balance of GBP108,352.2, as at 14th November 2016.
Standard Chartered Bank account 5001062693 with balance of N8,131,195.27, as at 14th November 2016.
Union Bank account 00021464934 with balance of N23,261,568.89, as at 14th November 2016.
Union Bank account 0012783291 with balance of N14,695,029.12, as at 14th November 2016.
The foreign currency Standard Chartered Bank accounts that were declared by Declarant SCN: 000015 have been in existence since at least 2011.
Prior to 2016, His Lordship appears to have suppressed or otherwise concealed the existence of these multiple domiciliary accounts owned by him, as well as the substantial cash balances in them.
The Standard Chartered Bank dollar account 1062650 had a balance of $391,401.28 on 31st January 2011;
The Standard Chartered Bank Euro account 5001062686 had a balance of EURO 49,971.71 on 31st January 2011;
The Standard Chartered Bank pound sterling account 5001062679 had a balance of GBP23,409.66 on 28th February 2011.
It is curious that these domiciliary accounts were not declared in one of the two CCB Forms filed by Justice Onnoghen on the same day, 14th December 2016.
The Naira bank accounts in b (i) and b (v) above are also omitted in the CCB form of Declarant SCN: 000014.
It is our humble view that, with the foregoing, we have laid before you facts which support the assertion that Justice Walter Onnoghen may have committed a breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act as follows:
Non-declaration of assets immediately after taking office in several capacities prior to becoming the Chief Justice of Nigeria contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
Non-declaration of assets immediately after taking office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
55Non-declaration of assets at the statutory intervals after taking office throughout his career as a federal judicial officer contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
False declaration of asset, and in particular, concealment of significant and declarable assets in the form of sundry bank accounts and the balances therein, contrary to section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act;
Consequent to this information, it is our expectation and request that you will discharge the constitutional duty of your office and take the necessary lawful actions to uphold and enforce the law in this matter by involving sister agencies such as:
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to conduct comprehensive statistical analysis of cash transactions on all the accounts for cases of suspicious transactions.
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to determine whether Standard Chartered Bank has not breached statutory duties to the Nigerian State in favour of, or in connivance with, His Lordship on SuspiciousTransactions Reporting (STR).
The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to determine whether the disclosed financial transactions are justified by His Lordship’s lawful remuneration.
As ordinary citizens, motivated by a clear belief that there must be high standards in public life, we have acted to expose a possible criminal breach of our laws. We believe it is now your duty to act, and to do so promptly
Below is the response to the CJN
“My asset declaration form numbers SCN 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day, 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009. Following my appointment as acting CJN in November, 2016, the need to declare my assets anew made me to realize the mistake.
“I then did the declaration to cover the period in default. I did not include my standard charted bank account in SCN 000014 because I believed they were not opened.
“I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN 000015 was to cover that period of four years which includes my term as CJN….”
As reported by the Premium Times of today, (13 January, 2019), there have been various responses to this trial :
In separate reactions, the Nigerian Bar Association and individual lawyers condemned the move and accused the executive arm of the government of desperately seeking to intimidate the judiciary.
The NBA condemned the speed of the investigation and trial of Mr Onnoghen, describing it as a validation of the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari’s federal executive has directed the current development.
“If one contemplates the fact that the CCT arraignment is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2019, we have in total a record number of 3 (three) working days between the receipt and processing of the petition, investigation, preparation of charge and ancillary processes and the arraignment!
“Such unprecedented speed and efficiency in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration! It is clear, given the rush with which this matter was conducted by the CCB, that the NJC was not privy to it and did not conduct its mandatorily required disciplinary processes
prior to the filing of the Charge before the CCT.
“As a final point, it is also difficult for a disinterested observer not to see a pattern of consistent assault by agencies of the FGN on the heads of the two independent arms of government,” the NBA said in a statement by its president, Paul Usoro.
In his opinion, a senior Nigerian lawyer, Femi Falana, described the move as a “prosecutorial misadventure,” and called on the justice minister, Abubakar Malami, to immediately withdraw the charge.
“The charge against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen ought not to have been instituted at the Code of Conduct of Tribunal in view of the case of Nganjiwa v FRN (2017) LPELR 43391 wherein the Court of Appeal held that a judicial officer who has not been investigated by the National Judicial Council and sanctioned for misconduct cannot be arraigned in any criminal court in Nigeria.
“As all authorities are bound by the Court of Appeal verdict the case should be withdrawn by the Attorney-General of the Federation without any delay because it is likely to be a prosecutorial misadventure.”
In a similar reaction, another Senior Advocate, Rotimi Oguneso, expressed shock at the development and wondered the role of the president’s legal advisers in the matter.
“It is shocking. Honestly, I do not know who is advising the government. We are yet to know the truth about the allegations. But which country will dock its number one judge in this manner? You serve the Chief Justice with papers on Friday expecting him to be in court on Monday!! It is indecent and revolting.
“Why this time? Is it to heat up the polity? There is something called discretion. I can’t see it in what has been done,” Mr Oguneso said.
In his reaction, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, described it as an attempt to gag the CJN who is constitutionally empowered to inaugurate the presidential election tribunal, against the 2019 election.
“The trial is undoubtedly politically motivated because as head of the judiciary, the CJN will be the one to empanel the presidential election tribunal that will try cases which emanate from the elections. It is curious. Less than 40 days to the elections, the judiciary is once again being eroded and gagged.
“There are many questions to be asked: How come it took the President so long to approve the appointment of the CJN? How come they did not find this allegations since? How come they relied on the so-called petition by an NGO, dated January 7 and received January 9 to hurriedly file charges on January 11? How come they are already asking the CJN to recuse himself?
“It is clear that there is an attempt to remove the CJN. It is also clear that they are wrong. The Nigerian Justice system assumes the innocence of a person until he is proven guilty,” said Mr Ozekhome in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES
In a similar opinion, Ejeh Monday, an Abuja based lawyer, views the charge as unlawful and the allegations, baseless.
“By the authorities of Nganjiwa and Ngwuta cases, you can’t prosecute a sitting Judicial officer in any court or tribunal in Nigeria without first subjecting him to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for investigation and discipline by virtue of Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Also, an Abuja based lawyer, Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, condemned the planned trial of the CJN, describing as unlawful and the climax of attacks against the judiciary.
“Not in all the years that I longed and dreamt of being a lawyer have I seen the Judiciary under so much attack. It is so unfortunate that the calibre of politicians we have today especially in the executive are using the power they have to intimidate the Judiciary, the third arm of the government, which has the power to protect the country from the excesses of other arms of government.
“By virtue of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the National Judicial Council is empowered to exercise disciplinary control over Judicial Officers against whom allegations and complaints of misconduct have been made.
“Pursuant to this provision, there has been enacted JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE REGULATIONS 2017, which provides the procedures for laying a complaint and every step that will be taken therefrom.
“Furthermore, the procedure for the discipline of judicial officers was deliberately provided for under the Constitution to protect the independence of the judiciary and to uphold the doctrine of Separation of Powers,” said Mrs Ogunlana-Nkanga.
The lawyer explained that despite being the head of the NJC, the CJN is not immune to punishment within the judicial arm of govern.
“Consequently, any allegation of misconduct should have gone through the proper channel of laying the complaint and allowing the NJC to handle any such allegations,” she said.
Also, a civil society organisation, SERAP in its reaction condemned the planned trial.
“The charge against the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen seems to be based on shaky constitutional and legal process and makes a mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system. This move could hurt @AsoRock fight against corruption and should be stopped immediately,” the group wrote on its official Twitter handle.
Without any doubt, it is clear that the goal of the Buhari government to continue to assault the judiciary is a sustained one which the Nigerians must resist. It is indeed a very dangerous and reckless game for a government whose awowed mantra is change.This government portends a serious danger to democracy and stability of Nigeria.
Author: David O. Alabi
David Alabi is a Professor of Political Science and Defense studies at the Nigeria Defense Academy. He writes on International relations and Political Science . He is the current Dean of the faculty of Arts and Social Studies in the same Institution. Follow him on Facebook with handle @Aojaalabi. You may write to him with email email@example.com